January 2011


The hero in my WIP, Cody, has a tendency to use big words and shrink-speak when he’s upset, angry or flustered. (There’s a reason he has a T-shirt that says “I’m fluent in psychobabble.”)

It turns out Cody and I have that in common. Now that I’m writing fiction fairly regularly, I notice myself trying to flaunt my vocabulary in the articles I write for the newspaper, too.

When I was in journalism school (way back in the dark ages … the early 1990s), we learned the average reading level of the newspaper audience was eighth grade. (I think I’ve heard it’s since dropped to sixth grade, but I might be mistaken there.)

I analyzed my writing style with a computer program once (way back in those same dark ages) and it told me I wrote at a 10th-grade level. That has more than likely changed the farther I’ve gotten from college (where everyone used big words in an attempt to show off what they thought they knew) and the more deeply entrenched I’ve become in journalistic style.

We journalists are trained to use simpler words. A school bus is just plain “yellow,” not “canary” or even “that shade of mustard peculiar to school buses.” Don’t use “growled” or “yelled” when a simple “said” gets the point across without embellishment.

Sometimes I wonder if that training has affected my fiction writing. In first drafts, I often go with the most expedient word. Then I scramble to change it later on.

But now that I’m shifting my focus to making a good impression on agents and editors, I find myself choosing words with a little more razzmatazz … well, like razzmatazz. πŸ˜‰

That’s not a bad thing at all β€” unless I’m writing a story for the newspaper. When I’m in journalist mode, I have to catch myself before I use words like “eschew.”

At least I haven’t tried to throw “bifurcated” into a sentence. I stumbled across that one while editing someone else’s story one night and spent much time complaining to whoever would listen that “bifurcated” was unnecessary when “forked” meant the same darn thing β€” and didn’t send readers scrambling for the nearest dictionary.

How about you? Ever catch yourself using words that make you feel like a big fish in a small pond?

I don’t often do this, but after I wrote this post for my other blog, I realized it’d be a perfect fit here, too. Here goes:

Sign me up for the Vince Vaughn fan club

Has anyone else seen “The Dilemma” yet? In it, Vince Vaughn plays a guy who discovers his best friend’s wife is cheating on him. Then he has to deal with his dilemma: To tell or not to tell.

Am I the only one who thinks Vince Vaughn is a great leading man?

“The Breakup”? Hilarious. “Wedding Crashers”? Heck, yeah. “Couples Retreat”? I could watch it over and over. “Four Christmases”? Yes, please β€” and I’ll take a couple more while we’re at it.

I love the fast-talking, mistake-prone, so-smart-yet-so-dumb, sweet, funny type of guy Vaughn seems to excel at portraying.

He may not be Brad-Pitt beautiful or Gerard Butler gorgeous, but he’s adorable in his own way. He’s more guy next door … the one the girl doesn’t realize she’s in love with until he’s dating someone else. Then she kicks herself ten ways to Sunday and embarks on a campaign to steal him away from the other woman who is, of course, clearly wrong for him.

Hmm … did I just come up with a story idea? I can work with that.

You never know … maybe I can talk Vaughn into playing the hero in one of my novels someday.

You’re nothing without your dreams, right? πŸ˜‰

(Speaking of Gerard Butler, the movie trivia playing before the film started said he had a law degree. I did not know that … but I bet Kristan Higgins did. She’s always posting “Gerard Butler Grammar Quizzes” on the RWA newsletter editors’ loop.)

The January 2011 issue of RWA’s Romance Writers Report included an article titled “The Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective (Has-Been) Authors.”Β Although I can’t quite be a has-been when I’m still a never-was, it got me thinking about my own bad habits.

In the article, Diane Farr asks: “What bad author habits are holding you back?” The habits she deems ineffective are:

  • Greed
  • Laziness
  • Rudeness
  • Blabbing
  • Unreliability
  • Pride
  • Ingratitude

I’ve definitely been guilty of laziness, waiting for inspiration to strike. Why, I’ve gone entire years without writing because I wasn’t “inspired.” I started “Blind Date Bride” well before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and didn’t finish it until December 2009.

But that was the old me. Nowadays, I much more in tune with writing. In 2010, I completed a half-finished MS, expanded and edited two mostly finished MSs to the proper category length and wrote a 53,000-word novel during NaNo. And I did it all while putting together six issues of NARWA’s newsletter.

Yes, I still waste plenty of time online, playing on Twitter and Facebook … hanging out with my friends on their weight-loss blogs (or my writer friends on their blogs). But I no longer let that keep me from doing something writing-related.) There really are enough hours in the day, if I limit my time with Bejeweled.

As for the rest of the seven habits?

I certainly hope I’m not rude, although I haven’t attended a conference yet. I don’t know enough to be blabbing inside information.

I’m so reliable and set in my routines that you can almost set your watch by me. If I’m in town, I’ll be at Barnes & Noble on Sunday before work; I hit the Starbucks before work a couple of times a week; I stay up late when I get off work to write, blog, what have you.

Pride? Well, I am proud of the fact that I finaled in the Beacon Contest. (Still haven’t heard about final placement, though.) And if I final in the GH, I’ll be tweeting, Facebooking and blogging about the high for weeks, I’m sure.

But I don’t think my writing is the best thing since sliced bread. I know it needs work. In editing my NaNo novel, I’m finding a lot of room for improvement.

I hope I’m not guilty of ingratitude, either. I love the boost I get from my NARWA sisters and the gals at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood (whom I wouldn’t know if our president, Anne Marie Becker, wasn’t one of them). Writing friends I’ve met through NaNo, like Mallory Snow, have been invaluable, too. (Mallory helped me sprint through my 50K in November.)

If I haven’t said it lately, thanks. You all inspire me, teach me and support me every day.

In about 12 hours, I’ll be at my RWA chapter meeting. I’m definitely looking forward to it β€” all the more because I do not have to rush back to the office afterward.

That’s right: I have the whole weekend off. I fully intend to take advantage of it to spend lots of quality time with the Boyfriend (and hopefully sneak in a little writing/reading/editing time).

So far, the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood Winter Writing festival has been a great motivator. Today, I completed Goal 4 (I think): Reading an article in RWR.

My newest issue arrived earlier this week, and I was excited first to check out the revamped layout. (As a page designer, I’m more interested in that sort of thing than some.) The changes are subtle, for sure. I guess I was expecting differences a little more drastic.

Monday, I wrote nearly 1,000 words. Yes, I’m aware that’s a lot more than my 200-word goal. Tuesday, I printed out a copy of my NaNo novel for editing (and gave myself a point for it. Can’t do any editing on it if it’s not printed out, right?)

Wednesday, while the Boyfriend was playing tennis, I sat in one of my favorite Starbucks and read through the entire thing. I got caught up in the story at times, so there were pages without any editing marks.That’s what subsequent passes are for. πŸ˜‰

On Thursday, I did some more writing on the WIP and got “Beauty and the Ballplayer” ready to edit. I also found this great article at Write It Sideways, about filter words that can weaken your fiction. I figured they’d be good to keep in mind when I’m editing.

Like I said, it’s been a productive week. I can’t wait to have another one!

Strange coincidences seem to be following me everywhere. In November, on the day I shipped off my GH entries, I got the call about finaling in the Beacon contest.

Today, as I left the house for a write-in at Starbucks, I thought to myself, “I wonder why I haven’t received any GH entries to judge. Maybe they decided they didn’t want me as a judge.”

When I returned home this afternoon, there was a UPS box waiting on the deck, addressed to me. Inside were … you guessed it: A stack of entries ready for my judging pleasure.

Kinda strange, right? It makes me wonder if there’s something to all that “Law of Attraction” and “The Secret” hype. Maybe if I start thinking positively that I will final in the GH, I’ll need the week of vacation I’ve requested to go to Nationals.

On another note, it’s only Day One of the WWF and I’ve already earned two points. I killed my 200-word goal at Starbucks, completing 1,066 new words β€” and I earned a bonus point just for visiting the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood site to declare my goals.

If I continue to write at this pace, I’ll have to up my goal to at least 400 words a day …

Talk of goal altering reminds me: I have some to add to my list.

β€” Read at least one of the GH entries I’m supposed to judge (after I peruse the judge’s instructions, of course)

β€” Pay my RWA dues. Got my notice yesterday. The drop-dead deadline is Feb. 28.

Today kicks off the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood Winter Writing Festival. I’m so there.

Come join me for the fun!

I haven’t tweaked my goals yet, but I’m stealing a page from Vivi Andrews, who commented that she reserved the right to reassess her goals come Feb. 1. I think that’s an excellent idea.

As many of you know, I’m proud to be a part of the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s Winter Writing Festival.

Sure, it hasn’t started yet. (The kickoff is Jan. 10.) And I just officially signed up here this evening. But I’m eagerly anticipating the kickoff β€” and I’ve been busy trying to craft a list of attainable goals that will still result in a big payoff when the party’s over.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

β€” Write at least 200 words on Beth & Cody’s story OR

β€” Do intensive edit of at least 1 chapter of Meg & Matt or Kenny & Kristi OR

β€” Read one article in one of the many unread issues of RWR I have on file OR

β€” Write a blog post of at least 150 words for this blog, Love & Laughter. Posts for the weight loss blog don’t count.

There you have it β€” a list of simple and attainable goals that will still add up to big progress.

I may revisit this list again before Jan. 10 to tweak my options. But I think it’s a pretty complete just the way it is.

Any thoughts? What would you like to see me do?

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